Alan Biggs' Sheffield United Column: Why Chris Wilder's consistent team selections at Bramall Lane are something of a throwback

Remember - if you can - those days when a winning team never changed? When it turned out every week?

Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 3:54 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th January 2019, 2:34 pm
Jack O'Connell of Sheffield Utd in the wars: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Couldn't happen again? Well, it can - and is - at Sheffield United.

Astonishingly, ten players have started nearly every game in the Championship this season.

Jack O'Connell of Sheffield Utd in the wars: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

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In only one position - right wing back - has there been a significant interchange between rivals (Kieron Freeman 16 appearances, man-in-possession George Baldock 11).

Everywhere else, players virtually pick themselves - from 100 per cent starters Jack O'Connell and keeper Dean Henderson on 27 through to Mark Duffy (bottom of the status quo ten) on 20. Chris Basham would have been a maximum man also but for a suspension.

This season these ten players have started 244 league games between them at an average (out of 27) of 24.4 between them. If you've time, find me a similar stat at any other club and I'll be astonished.

What drew me to look into this is a programme article by club statistician Andrew Kirkham based around O'Connell's recent milestone of 100 consecutive league starts.

O'Connell was the first to three figures since Phil Jagielka (133) back between 2004 and 2007.

The previous most recent centurions date all the way to the late 60s, early 70s (Alan Woodward, Tony Currie and Len Badger). For the Blades record holder, look to Jack Smith between 1935 and 1948.

Now, of course, and for many years in the modern era, managers at virtually every level will tell you that you can't thrive without a strong squad. At Bramall Lane, Chris Wilder is no different.

But the squad rotation theory championed by so many is being absolutely obliterated by the Blades boss. Or, as he would say, his players are doing it for him by picking themselves.

Of course, luck with injuries is needed but then winners tend to be reluctant visitors to treatment rooms - especially with rivals pushing, and that is the reality at Bramall Lane regardless of the Barnet cup blip.

Right now, we could all pick Wilder's team for him and long may that continue. A refreshing throwback, too, suggesting it's not unreasonable to expect professionals to keep doing the job for which they're paid.

And a nice bit of man-management that when the time came to bring off a striker (Billy Sharp) in a fourth successive victory, newly signed Gary Madine was denied being thrown on for his debut. Instead, Leon Clarke was encouraged to maintain his claims in helping see out the 1-0 over QPR.

Had the game been goalless late on, you fancy Madine would have been the man to provide the extra match-winning bustle and thrust for which he was signed.

But with a winning position established, Wilder stayed loyal to Clarke and kept Madine champing at the bit. All very healthy.'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹